Feeling a little down? Read my latest on Psych Central. I get down, too. I hope this helps.
I hope you will stop by and read my latest article on Psych Central. Legend, Fact, and Fiction: Reading into Lobotomies.
I hope you will read my latest article on Psych Central. I would love to know how others with a mental illness feel about this issue.
A quote from the article: “People will argue that it is a matter of rights. I say elected officials don’t get to have their cake and eat it, too. If Congress and the President are worried about our rights, why not start with more treatment facilities (instead of warehousing in prisons), employment protections, housing, etc. Why pick the issue of guns rights over the things that would work to give us a chance at equality in other areas?”
Suffering. I suffer. You suffer. We all suffer. An illness. A loss. Hunger. No shelter. Bombs. Loneliness.
I frequently say, “Why can’t suffering be doled out equally?” Like if you have a severe mental illness you don’t also get a chronic physical illness, or if you lose your child, you don’t also lose a spouse. The world doesn’t work that way, though. And you can’t equate the loss of a child, or war, or starvation to schizophrenia. Suffering is not equal.
My diagnosis of diverticulitis almost two weeks ago, made me momentarily think that I shouldn’t have to deal with physical illnesses and a severe mental illness, too. For a short period, I felt bitter and sorry for myself.
I don’t like feeling bitter, or sorry for myself. Bitterness and self-pity do not suit me or feel right for any length of time, but beyond these feelings is an even more destructive force: fear.
Feelings don’t just fly away. There are times when we need to work to get our feelings on track (I certainly don’t mean you can think your way out of a mental illness, only that you can think your way out of some feelings both negative and positive).
So, I need to find a way back. A way to put my troubles in perspective, lighten my mind, heart, and soul. What I want to be is fearless.
When I was in the emergency room at the hospital, anxiety overcame me. My pulse rate was well above 100. I have felt that same anxiousness since that time. I am hyper concerned about the diverticulitis acting up again and sending me back to the hospital. During this time, I have had back problems for two months. I can lay down and stand up, but I can’t sit. I even stand at restaurants to eat (we haven’t gone out much lately). I am standing while typing this.
But back to fearless. I don’t want to be anxious or afraid anymore. I want to develop a skin of steel. Going to the doctor and hospital terrifies me. I want to overcome that. I want to be strong and brave and courageous. I want to laugh in the doctor’s office and make them laugh, too. I want to whistle no matter what the diagnosis or outcome. I don’t want to be afraid. I don’t want to be concerned.
Concern, anxiety, fear and worry have taken over my life these last two months. I have stopped doing the things that bring me joy because I feel an ache here and pain there and the worry begins. I am concerned by every bite of food I put in my mouth, thinking it may cause another infection in my intestines. I fear sitting down because it can cause my back to hurt for hours or even days.
I know it will take small steps to get me back to the laughter I so frequently enjoy. I know it will take time removed from these illnesses and pains to help my mind heal from their impact. I know all of this, and yet, today, I am going to get out of the house, experience a little living, get on with things.
Today, I step out, slowly, surely, and purposefully. I am re-entering the world. I miss my joy, and I want it back. I may never be completely fearless like I dream and desire, but I’m moving toward that goal – one toe out front – the rest of me is not far behind.
I knew a time when I didn’t consider turning a cartwheel a second thought – my arms outstretched my legs in a V and during those times falling wasn’t a concern. There was also climbing up on a horse and riding it as fast as it would carry me. I bent easily. I twisted with ease. Not so much grace, but flexibility. My body. My wonderful, beautiful, strong, capable, reliable body. Not everyone has a body that moves through the world without a struggle. I did, though, and now it is deteriorating.
My brother once said that Parkinson’s (which his partner has) is a series of letting go – saying good-bye to tasks and skills you once could perform easily and without effort. I am letting go. No cartwheels. No mindless walking where the tree trunks that have pushed up a concrete block in the sidewalk don’t make me slow down. I need a steady pace. No dashing from the shower without the fear of falling. No leaving puddles of water on the bathroom floor.
This body that for over thirty years was ready and waiting to bring a life into this world has even said enough to that as menopause begins to set in. There will be no children feeding on these breasts. No eggs. No build up of the uterine wall and then the shedding of that miraculous lining.
I grow older by the day. My body has become more fragile, less limber. I see some eighty-year-olds running marathons, that will not be me. For the past eight weeks, I have been bedridden because of an injury to my back and during that time I have dreamt of the lack of awareness I used to possess where my limbs and spine are concerned. I have drifted off to sleep imagining that I was floating in water, free from the aches and pains and weight of my out-of-shape body.
I’m not a person filled with jealousy. I rarely feel envy, but to watch the free-flowing movements of abled bodied twenty-year-olds brings a sting of missed opportunity and the lack of gratefulness and full appreciation of what this marvelous home I walk in could once do.
I know that aging brings with it pearls – treasures of a different kind: memories of how things used to be like life before the Internet, before cell phones, before selfies and if you are fortunate enough, age carries with it more wisdom and an eye and heart for what is truly beautiful.
As I let go of physical confidence and strenuous athletics, I keep my heart and mind open for the freedom to visit the past and soak up all that is precious there; grandparents who have passed on, friends who were taken much too young. I can entertain my young self and accept that she was right about some things, especially that the world is magic and she has mystical powers.
Content Warning: Language
I walk downtown to a busy Starbucks to wait for my husband to finish his work day so we can walk home together. On my trip to the coffee shop and while I am sitting at a table, I see at least a dozen homeless people. Some of these people are talking to voices only they can hear, waving their arms and cursing at no one in particular. I want to look away but I can’t.
While I sip my coffee, I stare at one woman who appears to be in her sixties. She is wearing a wool coat and gloves on a warm Southern California day. She walks up one side of the sidewalk and then back again, repeating her steps over and over. She looks as if she is pacing. She begins to yell, “Fuck you!” as people pass her. “Fuck you!” She screams again and again.
I don’t know if she is directing her words at the people on the street passing her or if she is yelling at a voice in her mind. I am almost certain she and I share the same diagnosis. Schizophrenia is not hard to recognize when you have lived with it intimately for over two decades. I don’t approach her. I sit, watching, thinking to myself…no, knowing, that she could be me- a medication that didn’t work, a divorce, the death of a parent, so many things could have placed me in her shoes on this street, yelling.
In contrast, I have a nice condo, in a good neighborhood, and a husband with a job. I try to contribute when I can by writing essays, articles, blog posts. I wouldn’t say life is easy for me, but in comparison to this woman before me?
I work hard for the level of functioning I enjoy. I take my medications with three hundred calories of food twice daily. I try to keep my weight down to avoid severe side effects like diabetes and high cholesterol. I keep pills with me all the time for the break-through of unexpected symptoms. I battle alongside my husband to control paranoia, lack of motivation and anxiety.
I can’t help but think, with the right medication, the right support, and if the opportunities for treatment existed, a network of support was available, would this woman before me fight as hard as I do? I believe she would. I think most people with schizophrenia would. Voices can be terrifying and torturous. Stopping the assault of voices on the mind is like salvation of the religious kind. The silence seems so life altering, in fact, it is life altering.
I want to do something for my fellow-sufferer out in the street, but I know she needs more than a phone number, a five dollar bill, or anything else that I could offer, except understanding and compassion. I have those two things in abundance as I watch her continue to yell, “Fuck you!” and point her boney arms in random directions. She could be cursing me above all others because I’ve been so close to where she stands and still can’t figure out the right thing to do.